Taking a break in a relationship is a nerve-racking experience, regardless of whether you or your partner originated the idea.
If you haven’t taken a break yourself, you know at least one couple who has. Maybe you even know a couple who seems to be on a constant break. Their relationship seems to be off just as often as it is on.
We make fun of them and prod them constantly, but deep down we wonder if they’re onto something. They’ve taken more breaks than you can count on one hand, but at the same time, their relationship has lasted longer than all of yours combined.
The truth is, putting your relationship on pause can actually be extremely healthy for your personal growth and that of your relationship. There is no clear-cut way to go about this relationship break, but over years of men’s coaching, I’ve noticed what tends to work and what doesn’t.
As a coach, seeing couples terminate a relationship out of confusion is one of the saddest things. Taking a break and reassessing your relationship and your personal goals can sometimes save you the heartache of an actual breakup.
Knowing what a break is and how to go about it in a healthy way can save your relationship from senseless ruin.
So today, we’re going to discuss the elusive “break”, what it is, what it means, when is it a good idea and when is it something to avoid, and more.
What is a Break?
A break is when a couple mutually agrees to step away from their relationship for a period of time in order to reassess, reorganize, and grow.
While the basics of a break are generally the same, the logistics of any relationship break almost always differ.
Some couples choose to move apart and physically separate themselves, some limit their communication, and some just alter the “rules” of the relationship.
There really is no one way to go about a break.
The most significant part of taking a break (and what distinguishes a break from a break-up) is that there is a planned reunion.
It is not a break-up and a subsequent decision to get back together–it is an intentional decision to be apart for a definitive amount of time and then reassume connection in the future.
A successful break requires both ends of the deal to be in agreement. While one partner may propose it, both have to be in on it.
When done well, a couple will return to their relationship with increased feelings for one another, a clear vision for the future, and a sense of deeper connection.
Is taking a break in a relationship a good idea?
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
If you’re considering a break, the likelihood is, it’s a good idea.
As I said above, I’ve seen countless relationships on the brink of collapse that were saved by a break.
Relationships are complex matters of the heart and needing some time to reflect, focus on self-care, and decide on the best way to move forward is only natural.
When to Take a Break
Knowing when to and when not to take a break can be tricky at times.
It’s easy to feel like taking a break is a “defeat” in a way, and that a better couple would have been able to sort through whatever is standing in your way.
This is not the case, however. Sometimes taking a break is what a better couple would do and being able to recognize its necessity is what will save your relationship.
Difficulties and disputes are a given in any relationship and oftentimes taking a break is the best solution.
Below are several great reasons to consider putting your relationship on hold.
1. Infidelity or Other Issues
Anything that disrupts your relationship can be a great reason to take a step back and reassess.
Infidelity is perhaps the biggest disruption.
After such a jarring event, making the hasty decision to end things right away or even continue on as if it never happened (equally hasty) can be rash.
In this case, taking some time apart to sort through emotions, get over the initial feelings, and determine whether or not you and your partner want to make the relationship work can be a great move.
In some cases, even a change in career or the loss of a close relative can be enough to merit time apart.
As in all things “break” related, there really are no clear do’s and don’ts.
What’s most important is that whatever you do, you decide upon it together.
2. Uncertainty with the Future
Your relationship should never feel like it’s going nowhere. But sometimes, that’s just the way that it is.
Maybe it’s just a phase, or maybe this bored, helpless feeling is an early indication that this relationship is destined for failure.
Sometimes, it’s impossible to tell which it is and taking a break can shed light on the situation.
If you’re feeling uncertain about the future of your relationship–you don’t see it going anywhere or your want to reassess your goals–hitting the pause button may be the best solution.
Sometimes, taking time apart to reevaluate your relationship, sort through unrealistic expectations, and gain clarity on your future, is all you need.
3. Whenever You Feel it Would Be Beneficial
If it isn’t clear to you already, taking a break in a relationship can be helpful for a vast variety of reasons.
The best indication of whether or not you need a break is how you feel: if you feel it would be beneficial, it probably would.
How Long Should a Break Last?
There is no perfect amount of time for a break. Some last days, some months.
A healthy break should be short enough so you and your partner don’t grow distant, but long enough to have proper time to sort things out.
Many studies show that three weeks is an ideal length of time for a break, but this may not be applicable to your relationship.
My advice to you would be this: talk with your partner and decide on a time frame that sits well with both of you. When this time is up, come back together and re-discuss. Does one of you need more time or are you both good to go?
Set a rough time frame, but don’t feel like you have to stick to it.
As in all things relationships, good communication can solve most problems.
Tips for taking a break in a relationship
Taking a break in a serious relationship is a nerve-racking thing, but a necessary thing nonetheless.
Knowing how to regulate your emotions during the break and knowing what to expect after will help the whole process go over smoothly.
The following four will help you have that successful break that will turn your relationship issues into a healthy relationship.
1. Don’t Freak Out
As with all things in life, panicking never helps.
The decision to take a break is a mature one, and while it can be scary, you have to trust that it will result in good for you and your partner.
This may mean an eventual decision to split up for good, but that may be a step in the right direction for you.
Before taking a break, you have to understand that one of the goals of a break is to uncover uncomfortable aspects of your relationship.
When this happens, you have to take the difficulties in stride.
2. Talk Through the Logistics Beforehand
Setting the ground rules and making sure you and your partner are on the same page before the break goes into effect can save unnecessary confusion and frustration.
If you fail to communicate and enter the relationship break without the same expectations, a break can easily transform into a breakup.
Will you ever see each other? How long will this break last? What if one of you wants more time? How much contact will you have? Will you remain exclusive in your romantic relationship?
3. Make Checkpoints
The timeline for your break will be completely dependent on the nature of your relationship.
Regardless of this timeline, checkpoints will help you progress and know where you’re at.
This can mean touching base once a week, once every couple of weeks, or maybe once every other day. This just helps you assess where you’re at as a couple while living independent lives.
Oftentimes checkpoints will also help you determine when you’re ready to get back together.
The time will pass quickly if you don’t use it intentionally.
Here are some of the best ways to reflect and reassess:
Unless you’re new to this world, you know that if you don’t make an action plan for something, it will never happen.
Simply taking time apart from your girlfriend or wife isn’t enough. You need to set aside clear pockets of time in your week to assess your relationship and decide how to move forward.
This dedicated time will be key in deciding how your future will unfold.
Meet with Friends
Relationships keep us busy. Oftentimes while in a relationship, you don’t have the time to connect with the people you were close to in your single days.
During a break, rediscovering this connection with friends, family, and others you have fallen out of touch with can lend some clarity to your situation.
Seek Professional Help
Whether this be couples therapy or counseling just for you, seeking expert advice can be a game-changer during relationship breaks.
Check out our expert relationship coaches below. Click the link to book a free call.
Things to Avoid During a Break Period
By this point, it should be decently clear that taking a break in a relationship isn’t a clearcut thing.
There are a handful of ways to go about it and none are better than the others–they depend entirely on the situation.
That said, as we near the end of this article, I want to make it clear that there are possible mistakes and things you need to avoid in a break period.
Here is what I mean:
- Don’t sleep around: While this is completely up to the two of you, most psychologists suggest remaining exclusive during a break. This helps you focus on the relationship and the whole point of the break rather than the novelty of new people.
- Don’t text her every day: She needs the break just as much as you do. If you find yourself wanting to text her every day, you probably have some dependency or trust issues.
- Don’t use a break to avoid a breakup: If you know you guys will never work, breakup. Trying to avoid a breakup by taking a break is just drawing out an already painful process.
- Don’t force getting back together: I know this may be confusing considering point number 3, but hear me out. A break can be a good time to assess whether or not you should break up. However, entering into a break with the intention of breaking up at the end is not a good idea.
By this time, you should have a decent understanding of what exactly a break is and how to go about it in a healthy manner.
Though it isn’t an easy topic to address and the solution to your problems may never be clear, knowing the best way to navigate a break and set yourself up for a positive end result (whatever this may be) can save you a lot of trouble.
But what if you just came out of a break and still don’t know what to do? The same issues keep coming up and you’re beginning to wonder if the whole thing was a waste of time.
Determining the fate of a relationship that means a lot to you is a tough thing. Here at Knowledge for Men, our coaches are seasoned professionals when it comes to weighty relationship decisions. We have changed the lives of hundreds of men with hundreds of “impossible” situations.